Category:MLB
Posted on: May 10, 2008 8:31 pm
 

Cheeseburgers in paradise

DETROIT -- Eric Mack does a terrific job writing our major league Power Rankings each week, but I've got to admit something:  While I read them each week, I don't wind up carrying any single one of them around with me in my work bag (sorry, E-Mack).

I do, however, carry around a different sort of Power Rankings everywhere I go. A little less than three years ago, GQ magazine ranked the "20 hamburgers you must eat before you die." Being that a good cheeseburger is still one of this life's great joys, I tore out the list long ago and filed it in my computer bag.

Which is why I was sitting in Miller's Bar (no relation) in Dearborn, Mich., at lunchtime the other day munching on two cheeseburgers before driving downtown to Comerica Park. GQ had Miller's ranked No. 8 in its burger list, I was staying in Dearborn so ... it was a no-brainer. And what a lunch. The burgers were big and juicy, and the cheese and bun both stuck onto the meat as if the trio was meant for each other. It's Velveeta cheese which, isn't necessarily gourmet, but you want a cheese that melts well on the burger, and it was delicious.

There are no windows in Miller's -- it's like blocky and solid, like a fort. And there are no plates -- the burgers arrive on wax paper. It's a beautiful sight.

No. 1 on the list is the Sirloin Burger from Le Tub in Hollywood, Fla. Been there several times, eaten several burgers (outstanding) and it's my favorite place in Florida. It's right on the Intracoastal waterway and the view is outstanding.

So far, I've only hit those two of the 20 on the list. Pretty much an average as paltry as that of the Tigers right now, I know. But part of it is this: There are a few burgers in the rankings that I just don't have much of an interest in.

The California Burger at Houston's in Santa Monica, Calif. (No. 6)? Maybe it's great. But sorry, I don't have an interest in avocado and arugula on my burger.

The Buckhorn Burger at Buckhorn in San Antonio, N.M.? I'm sure it's grand, but green chilis on a burger don't do it for me.

Besides, there's no major-league team in New Mexico, so I don't know when I'd be there anyway. But there is a major-league club in Seattle (well, it isn't playing like one right now), so the Double Bacon Deluxe with Cheese at Red Mill Burgers (No. 17) might be a go sometime soon.

And the Phillies will be worth checking out, so perhaps the Rouge Burger at Rouge in Philadelphia, or the Kobe Sliders at Barclay Prime (No. 5), also in Philly, might make it onto my lineup card.

Hey, this list is one reason I hold onto my computer bag so tightly. My notebooks filled with various interviews for upcoming columns? Heck, I can replace those.

Likes: The Florida Marlins spending $70 million on Hanley Ramirez? Be still, my heart. And the word is, if the Marlins are still contending near the July 31 trade deadline, they may spend some dough to get some help. ... Steve Lopez's terrific book The Soloist. Lopez is a metro columnist for the Los Angeles Times, and the book follows a homeless man who plays the violin and cello on the street. The man, Nathanial Ayers, once was a music prodigy at Juilliard in New York and was the subject of several Lopez columns. It is one terrific read. ... The prospect of getting to my local CD store in the very near future and picking up several things on my list, including Mudcrutch, the new Rolling Stones Shine a Light disc and a few other things.

Dislikes: Don't tell me Toronto's Vernon Wells is going to miss several more weeks again this year. He is? Damn.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"We weren't in love, oh no, far from it
"We weren't searchin' for some pie in the sky summit
"We were just young and restless and bored
"Livin by the sword"

-- Bob Seger, Night Moves

Posted on: May 9, 2008 11:22 pm
 

Yankees' plane done left

DETROIT -- How are things going for the New York Yankees right about now?

Well, let's see. Reliever Chris Britton was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Friday. He had a 9 p.m. flight out of Detroit.

Reliever Jonathan Albaladejo worked 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief Friday night before departing with a 2-and-0 count on Placido Polanco in the sixth inning here Friday night with a sore right elbow.

"I think that occurred around 9:10," Yankees manager Joe Girardi noted.

So the Yanks were sending word to Britton: Abort flight!

"He'll turn around and come back now," Girardi said.

And Albaladejo will fly to New York for an MRI on his elbow.

"At first the pain was like a needle going into my elbow," Albaladejo said. "I just couldn't do it no more. It was kind of like a burn."

According to Girardi, it's either a strained muscle or sprained ligament. Either way, the Yankees' bullpen took another hit.

Oh, and Hideki Matsui's 17-game hitting streak came to an end. OK, so he wasn't exactly close to the club-record 56 put together by a fella named Joe DiMaggio back in 1947. Still ... Matsui was 0-for-4 when he came up to bat in the ninth with Bobby Abreu on second base, two out and the Yanks trailing 6-5.

Detroit manager Jim Leyland called for closer Todd Jones to intentionally walk Matsui. Shelly Duncan ended the game with a fly ball to center.

"I wasn't surprised at all," Girardi said of Leyland's interesting strategical maneuver which involved putting the go-ahead run on base. "You're talking about a veteran player who has been in this situation a long time vs. a young man who hasn't been in it much at this level."

Oh, and entering the game? Matsui led the AL with a .426 on-base percentage, and his .345 batting average was second in the AL to Minnesota's Joe Mauer, who checked in at .346.

Likes: Toronto's Roy Halladay already having pitched four complete games this season. ... Detroit's home whites. ... The out-of-town scoreboard -- in whatever stadium you're sitting in. ... Former umpire Bruce Froemming now hanging around press boxes. ... The cheeseburgers at Miller's Bar in Dearborn are fabulous.

Dislikes: Interstate 75 closed for a couple of miles just south of Detroit as Michigan's never-ending road construction continues.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"It's a beautiful day
"Don't let it get away"

-- U2, Beautiful Day

Category: MLB
Posted on: May 7, 2008 10:56 pm
 

I like mine with lettuce and tomatoes. ...

One of those only-in-baseball characters passed away, Pat Santarone, the former head groundskeeper at old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. Back in the day, Santarone and George Toma, the old groundskeeper in Kansas City (who now tends to Minnesota's spring fields in Fort Myers, Fla.) were the Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron of their profession.

Anyway, one of the most interesting things about Santarone was the tomato-growing contests he and Hall of Famer Earl Weaver, the former Orioles' manager, would engage in each summer. The plants were down the left-field line, and the Orioles players used to have a grand time egging on the two combatants.

Terrific quote from Weaver in Roch Kubatko's soulful obit on Santarone in the Baltimore Sun regarding who had the better crop of tomatoes each summer: "Well, he was there when I'd go on the road, and I think there was a little tomfoolery," Weaver said. "He might have been pinching off some of my buds."

You can read Roch's entire piece here.

Likes: Cliff Lee of Cleveland, now with an 0.84 ERA. Wow. ... In Detroit this week, the honeysuckle trees on the grounds of the Dearborn Inn are absolutely gorgeous. And oh my, the fragrance is intoxicating. Smells like spring. ... The fact that Ty Cobb's name is listed on one of the Comerica Park walls with all of the other Tigers whose numbers have been retired, but they left the place for Cobb's number blank. He played before baseball teams wore numbers on their uniforms. ... Detroit Beach Pizzeria and Restaurant, serving outstanding pizzas and Italian food down in Monroe since 1966. ... Leo's Coney Island in Comerica Park. Coney dogs, mmm.

Dislikes: A total of 75 students were arrested in a drug bust at San Diego State University, a bust that included guns? And one of the students arrested was majoring in criminal justice and another was majoring in Homeland security? You've gotta be kidding me. Nice, real class there.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well it was Saturday night, I was sitting in the kitchen
"Checking out the women on Spanish television
"Got a call from Paul who was just let out of prison
"He said hey listen, there's something I'm missing
"I said I'm on it, honest, it's on its way
"You're gonna get your money in a couple of days, okay?"

-- Fountains of Wayne, Strapped for Cash

Posted on: May 3, 2008 9:29 pm
 

Angels on the mound

John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar combined for 37 victories last season, so when they both went onto the disabled list to start the season, there was every reason for the Los Angeles Angels to cough, wheeze and sputter for the season's first several weeks.

So what happens? Left-hander Joe Saunders and righty Ervin Santana each start 5-0, matching Frank Tanana (1978) as the only Angels ever to go 5-0 in the month of April.

More impressive, it's only the second time in major-league history, according to Elias Sports Bureau research, that one team has had a pair of pitchers go 5-0 or better in the month of April. The only other time: Aaron Sele and Rick Helling did it for the 1998 Texas Rangers.

Who, no coincidence, wound up winning the AL West that season.

"We have to keep going, keep it up," Santana said after knocking off Oakland on Wednesday to go 5-0. "I'm 300 percent, 500 percent positive that I can do better."

Santana's math may be a tad off, but he was smiling as he said it and his point was made.

"Joe and Ervin have kind of matched each other pitch for pitch," Angels manager Mike Scioscia says. "They've really been the lead dogs for our rotation."

And the woofing is only going to get louder. While Saunders takes his 5-0 record into Sunday's series finale against Baltimore, Lackey will make his third injury-rehabilitation start for Rancho Cucamonga Quakes -- also on Sunday afternoon. So far, so good with Lackey, and the Angels have him tentatively scheduled to rejoin their rotation on May 14 in Kansas City.

Posted on: May 1, 2008 7:01 pm
 

Terrible news in Colorado

If you picked one player whose long-term absence would cripple the Colorado Rockies, it wouldn't be 2007 Most Valuable Player candidate Matt Holliday. Nor would it be face-of-the-franchise first baseman Todd Helton, nor starting pitcher Aaron Cook.

Without question, it would be shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.

And losing him until at least the All-Star break with a torn tendon in his quadriceps is every bit as devastating for the Colorado Rockies as you can imagine.

Tulowitzki isn't simply a flashy glove. He wasn't just a hot Rookie of the Year candidate in '07.

No, in his one season on the job, Tulowitzki emerged as the Rockies' team leader and model player. Manager Clint Hurdle does not hesitate in saying that things turned around for the Rockies in '07 about a month into the season, when Tulowitzki steadied himself, gained some confidence and took off.

He led all NL rookies last season in hits (177), RBI (99), runs (104) and total bases (292). And according to Stats, Inc., his .987 fielding percentage is the best all-time by a rookie shortstop.

The crushing blow for the Rockies, however, is this: Tulowitzki's importance cannot be measured simply in numbers. As a rookie last season, the kid wouldn't hesitate to bark at a teammate if he thought the guy wasn't doing something the way it should be done -- or, worse yet, loafing.

The only thing that might be more rare than a rookie directing traffic in a major-league clubhouse is everybody else listening. That's the true measure of Tulowitzki's value, and how much respect he commands in the Rockies' clubhouse. Even when he was a 22-year-old rookie, the Rockies took their cues from him.

He was off to a rough start this season, hitting only .152 with one homer and 11 RBI. He already had committed two errors after being charged with only 11 in all of 2007.

The ironic thing is that Tulowitzki dropped 10 pounds over the winter, wanting to get lighter because with Kaz Matsui gone, Tulowitzki knew that he probably would spend much of this season batting second.

And always wanting to make sure to do things the right way, Tulowitzki knew that in the No. 2 hole, he would need his legs more. That particular batting slot demands moving runners over, a higher on-base percentage and perhaps even stealing more bags.

Hurdle was impressed not with the results of Tulowitzki's body-sculpting, but with the forethought that went into it. Again, there was his shortstop, anticipating a play, and then making it.

I loved Hurdle's spring quote when, after Tulowitzki made a backhanded glove-flip to second so start a double play, someone asked him whether it wasn't a little too flashy.

"Come on, guys," Hurdle responded. "Let an artist paint. Let a musician play."

He could say this partly because he knows flash is the last thing TUlowitzki is about. As the manager told me during another conversation in Arizona, "He's not about the bling. He's about trying to get outs."

In Tulowitzki's absence, those outs now will become even more difficult for a struggling Rockies club to obtain.

Colorado will miss him dearly. So, too, will baseball fans who appreciate it when a player comes along who pretty much embodies all that is right about the game.

 

Posted on: April 27, 2008 10:00 pm
 

Happy Anniversary

To who?

Why, to the memory of one of the greatest managerial meltdowns in major-league history!

Yes, sports fans, Tuesday is the 25th anniversary of former skipper Lee Elia's all-time classic in Wrigley Field, when he shredded Cubs fans in a profanity-laced tirade that quickly became one of the most bootlegged tapes this side of a Grateful Dead show.

If you haven't heard it yet -- or if you have, but haven't played it in awhile -- it's just one more reason to be thankful for the existence of Youtube. Check Elia's rant out here (be forewarned, it's very R-rated, though exquisitely poetic).

It all started after the Cubs suffered another loss, this one 4-3 to the Dodgers, and some fans tossed beer and hurled insults at Cubs Larry Bowa and Keith Moreland as they came off the field.

"A few moments before, someone was calling MOreland a fat redhead and Bowa a Pygmy shortstop," Elia reminisced last week to the Chicago Sun-Times. "It just set me off."

Uh, yeah.

"We've got all these so-called f------ fans that come out here and say they're Cub fans, who are supposed to be behind you, ripping every f------ thing you do," Elia ranted to reporters on that fateful day. "I tell you one f------ thing, I hope we get f------ hotter than s---. Just to stuff it up them 3,000 f------ people that show up ever f------ day. because if they're the real Chicago f------ fans, they can kiss my f------ ass, right downtown, and print it!"

He went on to note that "85 percent of the world is working, the other 15 percent come out here. A f------ playground for the f------ c----------."

Incredibly, Elia -- whose Cubs were 5-14 at that point, in last place in the NL East -- kept his job for another four months before being fired that August.

All these years later, Elia, now a special assistant to Mariners manager John McLaren and a beloved figure in the Mariners organization, is revisiting the long ago moment that turned him into a sort of cult hero. Through an Illinois-based memorabilia dealer, Elia is selling an autographed baseball that contains a 20-second sound chip in which he parodies his tirade with a positive message to Cubs fans. The ball, which is scheduled to be unveiled Monday at Harry Caray's Restaurant in downtown Chicago, also has the inscription, "And print it!"

Elia, a surivor of prostate cancer, has designated a portion of the proceeds for Chicago Baseball Cancer charities. Best part of all might be that the ball also will come with an mp3 copy of the unedited tirade.

For more information, call 1-800-581-8661 or go to www.leeunplugged.com.

Likes: Umpire Kerwin Danley released from the hospital. What a scary moment Saturday night, when he was drilled with Brad Penny's mid-90s fastball and he lost consciousness. And  what a blessing that he wasn't seriously hurt. ... Tampa Bay in first place, even if the Rays are tied. What a thing in the AL East in the final days of April. ... The Lee Elia rant. I've had a copy of the tape for years, and it is just so staggeringly entertaining. And to think how times have changed: That happened today, it would be all over ESPN, CNN, other assorted cable channels, the Internet, national radio, etc., within the hour. Back then, one radio guy who was in Elia's office had his tape recorder, and it went out on a Chicago radio station and then those in the inner circle of the Chicago media got themselves tapes of it, and it spread from there.

Dislikes: That one of the Cleveland Indians -- Grady Sizemore? C.C. Sabathia? Fausto Carmona? -- has yet to show up at a Cavaliers NBA playoff game wearing a Washington Wizards cap. You may recall Cavaliers star LeBron James showing up at Jacobs Field during the Cleveland-New York playoffs last fall wearing a Yankees cap?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"She's like so whatever
"You can do so much better
"I think we should get together now
"And that's what everyone's talking about"

-- Avril Lavigne, Girlfriend

Posted on: April 26, 2008 1:28 am
 

Look out, here comes the Big Unit

Brandon Webb is 5-0 with a 2.31 ERA, Micah Owings is 4-0 with a 2.42 ERA and Dan Haren is 3-1 with a 3.03 ERA. The Arizona Diamondbacks, with baseball's best record (17-6), already have that invincible look, that this-is-the-year feeling.

And if Randy Johnson continues his slow, steady ascent, there's no telling how high these Snakes can go.

Johnson still didn't look like his old, dominant self in his third start of 2008 Friday night, but nobody expects him to -- and he doesn't need to be that guy, anyway. In limiting the punchless San Diego Padres to a run and three hits over six innings in a 5-1 whipping, Johnson evened his record at 1-1 and lowered his ERA to 2.70.

These are solid numbers for any starting pitcher.

For a 44-year-old on a team simply looking for a consistent No. 3 or 4 starter?

Exquisite.

Johnson doesn't go 97, 98 m.p.h. like he once did, but following two back surgeries in two years, he's got enough and he's getting better. Arizona manager Bob Melvin noted one 96 m.p.h. fastball Friday, one at 95 and several at 94.

"His velocity picked up considerably," Melvin said. The skipper noted that the Big Unit's location was better, his split-finger fastball was improved and he consistently pounded the strike zone with his inside fastball as well.

"I feel like I'm getting where I want to be," Johnson said. "I'm still not happy -- I'm walking too many people (two Friday; nine in his three starts), but it's a step in the right direction."

Johnson came back tentatively against San Francisco on April 14, throwing 90 pitches over five innings, walking four and striking out seven in a no-decision. The Giants thought he looked OK, but not much more.

Johnson was marginally better six days later, throwing 104 pitches over 5 2/3 innings in a 9-4 loss Sunday, walking three and striking out seven. Though he surrendered six runs, only four were earned, and he held the Padres to one run through five innings.

Friday night? Six innings, longest outing of the season, and it took him only 94 pitches. Granted, the Padres are less dangerous than a neutered kitten right now, but Johnson pretty much kept it in cruise control. And, he sacrifice bunted in the third, singled up the middle in the fourth, sprung off of the mound in the fifth to make a play on Scott Hairston's weak chopper toward third ... in other words, he played the game.

"That was a heck of a play," Melvin said of fielding Hairston's ball. "I was thinking to myself, 'Don't even try that.'"

He did, though, despite the fact that in a very limited spring training, he did very little fielding work and not much hitting, either.

He spoke afterward of needing to make sure everything he does is constructive, done for a purpose. He doesn't need to be Rickey Henderson on the bases, he said, noting a play last year in which he slid into third base.

"My back wasn't the same after that," said Johnson, who was not able to pitch after June last year.

"There are going to have to be times when I may have to miss a start," he said while plotting for continued strength and the stamina and health to make it all the way to the finish line this year. "I don't want to, but that's the way it is."

If Johnson misses a start here or there in exchange for pitching fairly regularly for the rest of the season, it's a bargain the Diamondbacks will gladly strike.

----

While Johnson was good, San Diego's lineup right now is terrible. The Padres have managed only six runs in their past 62 innings in Petco Park, and they now have not homered in their past 86 innings at Petco. Their last homer at home came way back on April 4, when Brian Giles slammed one in the sixth inning of a game with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ouch.

Likes: Tampa Bay, four-game winning streak and 12 wins matching their most ever after their first 23 games. ... Washington outfielder Elijah Dukes spending several hours cleaning cages and mopping at a Tampa, Fla.-area zoo in the past week as part of a deal to shorten his probation from a drug charge. ... San Diego's Brian Giles having Warren Zevon's Werewolves of London played for his at-bats at home on the nights Randy Wolf starts. ... Giants third-base coach Tim Flannery giving two thumbs up to the Mudcrutch show at San Francisco's Fillmore Theater last week. Mudcrutch? Looking forward to the new disc coming out next week from the group, which is the reformation of an old Florida band and Tom Petty's current side project. And Petty is playing bass. ... Tina Fey on David Letterman the other night. ... Tyler Hansborough staying at North Carolina for his senior season. ... Friday Night Lights returning for another season next year.

Dislikes: Shark attack off the coast of Solana Beach, a small community north of San Diego. I know a guy who knows the guy who was killed, and it's a sad, sad tale. ... The truck crashing into the train station in Chicago on Friday, killing two. Man, what an ugly day. ... Friends' reviews on Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Thought it looked like a solid flick from the previews a few weeks ago. Couple of friends saw it and now it'll be a rental.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"And all the girls walk by
"Dressed up for each other"

-- Van Morrison, Wild Night


Posted on: April 21, 2008 5:44 pm
 

Searching for the Yankees "idiot". ...

Welcome to the New York Yankees manager's chair, Joe Girardi.

Are you an idiot?

Only chip-off-the-old-block Hank Steinbrenner knew exactly the point he was trying to make when he told the New York Times that "you have to be an idiot" to "have a guy with a 100-mile-per-hour fastball and keep him as a setup guy."

The guy, of course, is Joba Chamberlain. And Steinbrenner's early frustration is understandable, given that the Yankees have been sluggish out of the gate over these first three weeks largely because Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy are a combined 0-5 with a 9.20 ERA.

When ferreting out the idiot of whom Steinbrenner spoke, here are two very important points to remember:

-- Girardi last winter signed a three-year, $7.5 million deal to manage the Yankees that runs through 2010.

-- General manager Brian Cashman is working in the final year of his contract, and the club so far appears not to have made much of an effort to re-sign him.

That doesn't mean Cashman is a short-timer as Yankees GM. Far from it.

But as this situation develops, and as the season plays out, it definitely bears watching.

During a conversation at the club's complex in Tampa this spring, Steinbrenner was complimentary of Cashman but declined to say if or when he would get around to talking with the GM about his future beyond 2008.

"I've known Cash a long time," Steinbrenner said. "He's been with our family a long time."

Steinbrenner said then that he would discuss the future with Cashman during the season, but wouldn't be pinned down on a time.

"It'll happen when it happens," Steinbrenner said then. "The big thing with Brian is the organization he's put in place. This is not going to be based on one decision. Damon Oppenheimer as the chief of scouting obviously has paid off huge. The way he's worked with Mark Newman (senior vice-president of the Tampa-based part of the Yanks baseball operations) and Joe Girardi. ..."

So ... who's the Idiot in Yankee-land?

Could it be Girardi, who left Chamberlain out of the rotation to begin the season?

Cashman, who obviously is one of the point men in that decision?

During that same conversation this spring, Steinbrenner spoke glowingly of Girardi.

"I love what he does," Steinbrenner said. "I love what he's doing. I really do. It's more a combination of things. (The players) like him and respect him, and I think there's even a little fear. He can be intimidating. He's a tough guy."

The plan all along has been to start the 22-year-old Chamberlain in the bullpen as a way of controlling his innings-pitched odometer. At three different minor-league levels and with the Yankees last season, he threw a combined total of 112 1/3 innings.

Say he opened the season as a starter and averaged six innings a start -- he'd already be at the 112-inning mark in his 19th start. And that's barely halfway through a full season. Big-league starters usually make somewhere around 32, 33 starts per summer.

Point is, the opposite of Steinbrenner's statement is true, too: You would have to be an idiot to put a still-developing Chamberlain into the rotation and expect him not to wear out before the finish line.

It was an organizational decision this spring -- not the edict of one man, like Girardi or Cashman -- to use Chamberlain as a set-up man early and then move him into the rotation later this season.

But like anything else when a fiery Steinbrenner is in charge of the Yankees, one man just may take the blame if the whole thing goes up in smoke.

Girardi? Cashman?

Perhaps neither.

We all know Johnny Damon was a self-proclaimed Idiot when he was playing for Boston in his previous life.

You don't suppose Steinbrenner was referring to him, do you?

 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com